Intestacy is a term that most Richmond residents have likely never heard, but it is an important concept that can impact the distribution of their end-of-life estates when they die. When a person dies without a will or estate plan, they are said to have died intestate. Intestacy laws dictate how and where individuals’ estates go when there are no testamentary documents to direct the processes.
Every state has its own intestacy laws and Virginia is no different. This post will briefly outline intestacy laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but readers are reminded that this post offers no legal advice. When the are ready, readers can contacted their estate planning attorneys for guidance on how to work with or around the state’s intestacy laws.
Family relationships and the passage of property
Virginia’s intestacy laws prioritize close relationships between decedents and their surviving family members. For example, under the law the first individuals to receive the property of a decedent are their spouse and kids. The proportion of how much each will receive will depend on if the children are also the children of the surviving spouse.
When a person outlives their spouse and kids and die intestate, their parents will receive their estate property. If they survive their parents, the decedent’s estate will pass to the decedent’s siblings and their children. The process continues to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so on, reaching farther out the branches of the family tree.
Avoiding the laws of intestacy
Upon a general reading, individuals may not see any issues with this process and may wonder, if they want their families to take their property, why they need estate plans. The problem is, though, that the laws of intestacy do not take into account any of the familial conflicts, preferences, or needs that the members may have. Intestacy laws do not know if a decedent hated their brothers and would have wanted to cut them out of possible inheritances. Similarly, intestacy laws do not prioritize giving to charities or others in lieu of family members.
Estate planning gives control to individuals. While intestacy laws may provide some structure for the disposition of end-of-life estates, the rules are rigid. Estate planning lawyers can help their clients get their plans in order to meet their own unique needs.